With the resurrection of retro gaming over the past few years, I was beginning to feel that I had got everything I wanted from it. From the masterful platforming of games such as Shovel Knight, to the bombastic, fast paced shoot em’ ups of games such as Hyperdrive Massacre; I was beginning to feel as if all bases were covered. However, PIxelnest Studio’s latest Shoot em’ Up, Steredenn, proves that there are still new and interesting ideas yet to be explored in the world of retro gaming.
One of the main draws of the game to me was its very simplistic, but challenging, game design. At its core, Steredenn has a very simple premise; shoot everything on-screen. You have to start each round with a ‘You VS the World’ mentality, letting nothing get past you as you make your attempt to plough through the oncoming hordes of enemies. However, this becomes extremely difficult when you factor in the fact that you only have a limited amount of life, and once that is gone, the game is over and back to beginning you go. Some people might be thinking right now that this game seems a little to challenging for them, don’t worry though; there is one way to get your health back; by defeating an even more difficult boss type enemy. These bosses are basically the ships you have been fighting but, turned up to a thousand and act as checkpoints to your progress throughout the game. Apart from the obvious reason of this mechanic; to make the game more challenging, I feel that it also added another dimension to the game that kept me coming back for more. I was constantly looking back to my health to make sure I had enough for the boss at the end, which meant I was playing the game a lot more strategically than I first thought I would. It felt very much like Dark Souls in the way that you would attempt a boss a few times before learning what you needed to know to defeat it.
In addition to receiving health after a boss fight, you also receive a power up of your choice. These range from Health increases to weapon buffs and continue to add to the strategic playstyle of the game as it is important that you pick the one that works best for you. One issue that I had with the bosses was that while they all moved and acted differently, most of them looked the same. It would have been nice to see some variety in the bosses appearance, especially for a game that relies so heavily on replayability.
As well as the regular game mode, there are a three other modes for you to enjoy. These are: Daily Run, Arena, and Superplay. The daily run is a mode that puts all players on a level playing ground once a day. Everyone who plays is given the same enemies, bosses and weapons to fight and utilize throughout the round. Your job is to complete the level and get the highest score possible while doing so to give you a chance at reaching the top of the leaderboard. What I really liked about this game mode is how each player only got one attempt at it, adding yet another level of tension to the game. However, while I liked the leaderboard, I felt as if there wasn’t really a sufficient enough rewards system put in place to give you incentive to keep coming back every day. Even being given something as simple as different skins for your ship would have been appreciated.
Arena mode is a place where you can practice against the 13 different bosses that appear in the main game. This mode give you the chance to learn and master the techniques that you require to beat each boss. However, you can only fight a boss once you have beat it in the main campaign. This mode is especially good for those of you who want to compete in the daily leaderboards by finding the optimal ways of destroying the bosses.The fourth game mode that you can play is Superplay. This is similar to Arena mode in the fact that it is more of a place to hone your skills in preparation for the Daily Run. This mode allows you choose what seed is used in the random generator; allowing you to decide what enemy type and bosses you want to fight against. While The Daily Run mode provided some longevity to the game, I felt that the other two modes didn’t really provide anything new the game.
The controls are tight and responsive, which is exactly what I wanted from a game that relies so much on fast maneuvers and rapid shooting. At no time did I feel that the controls were the reason for me being destroyed; meaning that it was always my fault and something that I could improve upon next time. While the retro art style of the game wasn’t anything groundbreaking, I felt that it accomplished its goal of bringing me into the world of the game and taking me back to an era where Shoot em’ ups like this one were everywhere you looked.
Overall, I would highly recommend Steredenn to both fans of the genre and newcomers alike. Yes, like any game it isn’t perfect and could be improved on in a number of ways, such as the bosses aesthetics and rewards system. However, it ‘s tight gameplay and addictive nature kept me coming back for more time and time again.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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